ARC Review | Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

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Title: Kingdom of the Wicked

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Publisher/Publish date: JIMMY Patterson/October 27, 2020

Genres: Young adult fantasy, historical fiction, mystery

Edition/Pages: eBook/448 pages

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

Thank you to JIMMY Patterson and Netgalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I was excited for Kingdom of the Wicked once I learned about Kerri Maniscalco writing it. I enjoyed the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, so I was happy to learn she had a new book coming out. Kingdom of the Wicked is a murder mystery with drops of fantasy, witchcraft, and magic. The synopsis intrigued me. I love murder mysteries and I love YA fantasy so this seemed like the perfect read to start October off with. 

Kerri Maniscalco writes a dark story following the main character Emilia as she searches for her twin’s murderer. KOTW started off slow for my taste, though it was easy to read, as with all of Maniscalco’s other books. I loved the setting, Sicily, Italy. The descriptions are wonderfully written, instantaneously transporting you across the seas. Even the mention and descriptions of the food were enough to make my mouth water. I was unsure of the time period that the story takes place. I did receive an unedited version of this book, so maybe the time period is explained in the final edit. After a few pages, I realized it must be set somewhere in the 1800s. The fantasy aspect of the story is dark and fascinating. But I wanted to know more about the witchcraft, the history of the witches, and the demonology that is part of the plot. There’s just enough explanation about old rituals and curses that help us along with what’s happening. But I think I needed more background to fully understand everything that was occurring. Then again, maybe this was done on purpose to leave more room in the next book.

There are two main characters in KOTW: Emilia and Wrath. At first, I found Emilia to be a typical timid teen. But once her sister Vittoria is murdered, she turns into someone set on vengeance. She decides to go above and beyond to find and put a stop to this murderer who not only killed Vittoria but is also killing other witches around town. When Emilia began to play detective, that’s when she started to annoy me. She was driven but made rash decisions which led to her biting off more than she could chew. Honestly, I would’ve liked to see more of her witch characteristics. And I would’ve liked for her to be smarter in her choices.

I liked Wrath more. I wish there was more of him throughout the book. He was likable and had great banter with Emilia. His arrogance was something to get used to, but then again, he is one of the seven princes of Hell so I guess his attitude was to be expected. 

There was a lack of character development within both characters. I didn’t buy into the enemies-to-lovers trope between Wrath and Emilia; it was underwhelming. They spent so much time fighting and arguing, it was hard to see their underlying feelings for each other. It was hard to picture a romance brewing between them. I hope this is rectified in book two; I would like to see a budding relationship between the two of them.

I felt like not much happened plot-wise. There are so many questions needing to be answered. The answers we get just lead to more questions. Everything that was revealed was only partially revealed, maybe to come to full circle in the next installments. But it’s enough to keep a reader interested.

Overall, Kingdom of the Wicked was fine; I just wanted more. It’s a solid story that just needed a little more development. I’m still curious to see what may happen next. So I’ll be keeping a lookout for part two.

RATING: 3 STARS

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